Reassessing Qing provincial power

Reviewed publication: Guy, R. Kent. 2010. Qing Governors and Their Provinces: The Evolution of Territorial Administration in China, 1644-1796. Seattle: University of Washington Press. xii + 445 pp. ISBN 978-0-295-99019-4 (Paperback)

In recent years historians began the process of diverging from traditional, imperial-centric narratives within the historiography of China to address political, economic, social, and cultural variations at regional, local, and individual levels. The works that came out of this reassessment highlight how a singular, grand account of Chinese history overlooks peculiar and unique events that often do not fit precisely into the traditional mold. At the same time many of these ‘bottom-up’ works often failed to provide any historiographic relevance to larger historical patterns and events, leaving historians to debate the value of seemingly esoteric contributions to the scholarship. In Qing Governors and Their Provinces, R. Kent Guy attempts to bridge the imperial-local divide by studying the creation, maintenance, and flexibility of provincial bureaucracies – particularly the role of governors – during the early to mid-Qing dynasty.

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